Here is another article about the international tonewood market and the coming tonewood famine.
“Guitar enthusiasts love to talk about tonewood….. Rarely do the words sustainability or scarcity come up.
These terms, however, are now central to the lexicon of the guitar industry.”
The article features comments from three people in the tonewood market:
Chris Herrod of Luthiers Mercantile International [LMI], a major American tonewood retailer, which is seeing major changes in the tonewood market.
“LMI aims to provide as many “new” varieties [of tonewoods] they can find to offer alternatives to the classics while educating the customer base along the way.”
Perry Ormsby a small Perth [Australia]-based luthier provides us with this great quote:
“Using Tasmanian blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon) as a substitution [for Honduran mahogany] has been a game changer.”
“A close cousin to Hawaiian Koa, it is heavier than mahogany and difficult to work with, but it sounds great. It looks cool, and it’s Aussie,” Ormsby says.
“When his customers are educated about the wide range of wood possibilities he is using and and see the results, it makes them rethink everything they wanted out of their dream guitar.”
And finally Bob Taylor from Taylor Guitars features prominently in the article.
“When the wood is in rare supply, the price goes up. Nearly all our woods have probably increased in price about 15% over the last few years. I don’t blame this on regulation. I blame it on supply. But since the supply is so low, it’s also become highly regulated to the point of illegality.”
In addition to its ebony partnership in Cameroon in west Africa, Taylor have also started a company called Paniolo Tonewoods, a partnership with Pacific Rim Tonewoods. Together they are undertaking a massive planting of Koa (Acacia koa) timber in Hawaii.
Tasmanian blackwood also gets a mention within the discussion about Taylor Guitars as a growing alternative sustainable tonewood.
But I’m not sure the article finishes on the right note.
There’s a strong emphasis on nostalgia and traditional tonewoods. There is not a strong message about the future and sustainable tonewoods.
In that regard it tends to reflect where the general tonewood market is at right now – caught between the traditional buying habits of its customers and lacking the commitment and leadership to move to a sustainable future.
But the time of the profitable sustainable tonewood will come; perhaps in the next few years.
Ultimately if the tonewood market wants to continue to access quality wood then it will have to start paying farmers to plant trees. There is no other option.
Will Tasmania be ready when the time comes?